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Dylan W. Reif
,
Howard B. Bluestein
, and
David B. Parsons

Abstract

This study creates a composite sounding for nocturnal convection initiation (CI) events under weakly forced conditions and utilizes idealized numerical simulations to assess the impact of atmospheric bores on these environments. Thirteen soundings were used to create this composite sounding. Common conditions associated with these weakly forced environments include a nocturnal low-level jet and a Brunt-Väisälä frequency of 0.011 s−1 above 900 hPa. The median lift needed for parcels to realize any convective instability is 490 m, the median convective-available potential energy of these convectively unstable parcels is 992 J kg−1, and the median initial pressure of these parcels is 800 hPa. An idealized numerical simulation was utilized to examine the potential influence of bores on CI in an environment based on the composite sounding. The characteristics of the simulated bore was representative of observed bores. The vertical velocities associated with this simulated bore was between 1 and 2 m s−1, and the net upward displacement of parcels was between 400 and 650 m. The vertical displacement of air parcels has two notable phases: lift by the bore itself and smaller-scale lift that occurs 100 – 150 km ahead of the bore passage. The pre-bore lift is between 50 and 200 m and appears to be related to low-frequency waves ahead of the bores. The lift with these waves was maximized in the low- to mid-troposphere between 1 km and 4 km AGL, and this lift may play a role in assisting CI in these otherwise weakly forced environments.

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Shushi Zhang
,
David B. Parsons
, and
Yuan Wang

Abstract

This study investigates a nocturnal mesoscale convective system (MCS) observed during the Plains Elevated Convection At Night (PECAN) field campaign. A series of wavelike features were observed ahead of this MCS with extensive convective initiation (CI) taking place in the wake of one of these disturbances. Simulations with the WRF-ARW Model were utilized to understand the dynamics of these disturbances and their impact on the MCS. In these simulations, an “elevated bore” formed within an inversion layer aloft in response to the layer being lifted by air flowing up and over the cold pool. As the bore propagated ahead of the MCS, the lifting created an environment more conducive to deep convection allowing the MCS to discretely propagate due to CI in the bore’s wake. The Scorer parameter was somewhat favorable for trapping of this wave energy, although aspects of the environment evolved to be consistent with the expectations for an n = 2 mode deep tropospheric gravity wave. A bore within an inversion layer aloft is reminiscent of disturbances predicted by two-layer hydraulic theory, contrasting with recent studies that suggest bores are frequently initiated by the interaction between the flow within stable nocturnal boundary layer and convectively generated cold pools. Idealized simulations that expand upon this two-layer approach with orography and a well-mixed layer below the inversion suggest that elevated bores provide a possible mechanism for daytime squall lines to remove the capping inversion often found over the Great Plains, particularly in synoptically disturbed environments where vertical shear could create a favorable trapping of wave energy.

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Aaron Johnson
,
Xuguang Wang
,
Kevin R. Haghi
, and
David B. Parsons

Abstract

This paper presents a case study from an intensive observing period (IOP) during the Plains Elevated Convection at Night (PECAN) field experiment that was focused on a bore generated by nocturnal convection. Observations from PECAN IOP 25 on 11 July 2015 are used to evaluate the performance of high-resolution Weather Research and Forecasting Model forecasts, initialized using the Gridpoint Statistical Interpolation (GSI)-based ensemble Kalman filter. The focus is on understanding model errors and sensitivities in order to guide forecast improvements for bores associated with nocturnal convection. Model simulations of the bore amplitude are compared against eight retrieved vertical cross sections through the bore during the IOP. Sensitivities of forecasts to microphysics and planetary boundary layer (PBL) parameterizations are also investigated. Forecasts initialized before the bore pulls away from the convection show a more realistic bore than forecasts initialized later from analyses of the bore itself, in part due to the smoothing of the existing bore in the ensemble mean. Experiments show that the different microphysics schemes impact the quality of the simulations with unrealistically weak cold pools and bores with the Thompson and Morrison microphysics schemes, cold pools too strong with the WDM6 and more accurate with the WSM6 schemes. Most PBL schemes produced a realistic bore response to the cold pool, with the exception of the Mellor–Yamada–Nakanishi–Niino (MYNN) scheme, which creates too much turbulent mixing atop the bore. A new method of objectively estimating the depth of the near-surface stable layer corresponding to a simple two-layer model is also introduced, and the impacts of turbulent mixing on this estimate are discussed.

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Hristo G. Chipilski
,
Xuguang Wang
, and
David B. Parsons

Abstract

A novel object-based algorithm capable of identifying and tracking convective outflow boundaries in convection-allowing numerical models is presented in this study. The most distinct feature of the proposed algorithm is its ability to seamlessly analyze numerically simulated density currents and bores, both of which play an important role in the dynamics of nocturnal convective systems. The unified identification and classification of these morphologically different phenomena is achieved through a multivariate approach combined with appropriate image processing techniques. The tracking component of the algorithm utilizes two dynamical constraints, which improve the object association results in comparison to methods based on statistical assumptions alone. Special attention is placed on some of the outstanding challenges regarding the formulation of the algorithm and possible ways to address those in future research. Apart from describing the technical details behind the algorithm, this study also introduces specific algorithm applications relevant to the analysis and prediction of bores. These applications are illustrated for a retrospective case study simulated with a convection-allowing ensemble prediction system. The paper highlights how the newly developed algorithm tools naturally form a foundation for understanding the initiation, structure, and evolution of bores and convective systems in the nocturnal environment.

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Manda B. Chasteen
,
Steven E. Koch
, and
David B. Parsons

Abstract

Nocturnal mesoscale convective systems (MCSs) frequently develop over the Great Plains in the presence of a nocturnal low-level jet (LLJ), which contributes to convective maintenance by providing a source of instability, convergence, and low-level vertical wind shear. Although these nocturnal MCSs often dissipate during the morning, many persist into the following afternoon despite the cessation of the LLJ with the onset of solar heating. The environmental factors enabling the postsunrise persistence of nocturnal convection are currently not well understood. A thorough investigation into the processes supporting the longevity and daytime persistence of an MCS was conducted using routine observations, RAP analyses, and a WRF-ARW simulation. Elevated nocturnal convection developed in response to enhanced frontogenesis, which quickly grew upscale into a severe quasi-linear convective system (QLCS). The western portion of this QLCS reorganized into a bow echo with a pronounced cold pool and ultimately an organized leading-line, trailing-stratiform MCS as it moved into an increasingly unstable environment. Differential advection resulting from the interaction of the nocturnal LLJ with the topography of west Texas established considerable heterogeneity in moisture, CAPE, and CIN, which influenced the structure and evolution of the MCS. An inland-advected moisture plume significantly increased near-surface CAPE during the nighttime over central Texas, while the environment over southeastern Texas abruptly destabilized following the commencement of surface heating and downward moisture transport. The unique topography of the southern plains and the close proximity to the Gulf of Mexico provided an environment conducive to the postsunrise persistence of the organized MCS.

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David B. Parsons
,
Kevin R. Haghi
,
Kelton T. Halbert
,
Blake Elmer
, and
Junhong Wang

Abstract

This investigation explores the relationship among bores, gravity waves, and convection within the nocturnal environment through the utilization of measurements taken during the International H2O Project (IHOP_2002) over the Southern Great Plains. The most favorable conditions for deep convection were found to occur within the boundary layer during the late afternoon and early evening hours in association with the diurnal cycle of solar insolation. At night, the layers most favorable for deep convection occur at and above the height of the nocturnal southerly low-level jet in association with distinct maxima in both the southerly and westerly components of the wind. Observations taken during the passage of 13 nocturnal wave disturbances over a comprehensive profiling site show the average maximum and net upward displacements with these waves were estimated to be ~900 and ~660 m, respectively. The lifting was not limited to the stable boundary layer, but reached into the conditionally unstable layers aloft. Since the net upward displacements persisted for many hours as the disturbances propagated away from the convection, areas well in excess of 10 000 km2 are likely impacted by this ascent. This lifting can directly maintain existing convection and aid in the initiation of new convection by reducing the convective inhibition in the vicinity of the active convection. In agreement with past studies, strong ascent in the lowest ~1.5 km was generally consistent with the passage of a bore. However, separate wave responses also occurred well above the bores, and low-frequency gravity waves may explain such disturbances.

Full access
Hristo G. Chipilski
,
Xuguang Wang
,
David B. Parsons
,
Aaron Johnson
, and
Samuel K. Degelia

Abstract

There is a growing interest in the use of ground-based remote sensors for numerical weather prediction, which is sparked by their potential to address the currently existing observation gap within the planetary boundary layer. Nevertheless, open questions still exist regarding the relative importance of and synergy among various instruments. To shed light on these important questions, the present study examines the forecast benefits associated with several different ground-based profiling networks using 10 diverse cases from the Plains Elevated Convection at Night (PECAN) field campaign. Aggregated verification statistics reveal that a combination of in situ and remote sensing profilers leads to the largest increase in forecast skill, in terms of both the parent mesoscale convective system and the explicitly resolved bore. These statistics also indicate that it is often advantageous to collocate thermodynamic and kinematic remote sensors. By contrast, the impacts of networks consisting of single profilers appear to be flow-dependent, with thermodynamic (kinematic) remote sensors being most useful in cases with relatively low (high) convective predictability. Deficiencies in the data assimilation method as well as inherent complexities in the governing moisture dynamics are two factors that can further limit the forecast value extracted from such networks.

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Bore-ing into Nocturnal Convection

Kevin R. Haghi
,
Bart Geerts
,
Hristo G. Chipilski
,
Aaron Johnson
,
Samuel Degelia
,
David Imy
,
David B. Parsons
,
Rebecca D. Adams-Selin
,
David D. Turner
, and
Xuguang Wang

Abstract

There has been a recent wave of attention given to atmospheric bores in order to understand how they evolve and initiate and maintain convection during the night. This surge is attributable to data collected during the 2015 Plains Elevated Convection at Night (PECAN) field campaign. A salient aspect of the PECAN project is its focus on using multiple observational platforms to better understand convective outflow boundaries that intrude into the stable boundary layer and induce the development of atmospheric bores. The intent of this article is threefold: 1) to educate the reader on current and future foci of bore research, 2) to present how PECAN observations will facilitate aforementioned research, and 3) to stimulate multidisciplinary collaborative efforts across other closely related fields in an effort to push the limitations of prediction of nocturnal convection.

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Bart Geerts
,
David Parsons
,
Conrad L. Ziegler
,
Tammy M. Weckwerth
,
Michael I. Biggerstaff
,
Richard D. Clark
,
Michael C. Coniglio
,
Belay B. Demoz
,
Richard A. Ferrare
,
William A. Gallus Jr.
,
Kevin Haghi
,
John M. Hanesiak
,
Petra M. Klein
,
Kevin R. Knupp
,
Karen Kosiba
,
Greg M. McFarquhar
,
James A. Moore
,
Amin R. Nehrir
,
Matthew D. Parker
,
James O. Pinto
,
Robert M. Rauber
,
Russ S. Schumacher
,
David D. Turner
,
Qing Wang
,
Xuguang Wang
,
Zhien Wang
, and
Joshua Wurman

Abstract

The central Great Plains region in North America has a nocturnal maximum in warm-season precipitation. Much of this precipitation comes from organized mesoscale convective systems (MCSs). This nocturnal maximum is counterintuitive in the sense that convective activity over the Great Plains is out of phase with the local generation of CAPE by solar heating of the surface. The lower troposphere in this nocturnal environment is typically characterized by a low-level jet (LLJ) just above a stable boundary layer (SBL), and convective available potential energy (CAPE) values that peak above the SBL, resulting in convection that may be elevated, with source air decoupled from the surface. Nocturnal MCS-induced cold pools often trigger undular bores and solitary waves within the SBL. A full understanding of the nocturnal precipitation maximum remains elusive, although it appears that bore-induced lifting and the LLJ may be instrumental to convection initiation and the maintenance of MCSs at night.

To gain insight into nocturnal MCSs, their essential ingredients, and paths toward improving the relatively poor predictive skill of nocturnal convection in weather and climate models, a large, multiagency field campaign called Plains Elevated Convection At Night (PECAN) was conducted in 2015. PECAN employed three research aircraft, an unprecedented coordinated array of nine mobile scanning radars, a fixed S-band radar, a unique mesoscale network of lower-tropospheric profiling systems called the PECAN Integrated Sounding Array (PISA), and numerous mobile-mesonet surface weather stations. The rich PECAN dataset is expected to improve our understanding and prediction of continental nocturnal warm-season precipitation. This article provides a summary of the PECAN field experiment and preliminary findings.

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